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AT&T splits bill, adds charge

About 1 million AT&T customers can expect a couple of new things in the mail: two separate bills instead of the usual one and an extra charge of $9.95 a month.

About 1 million AT&T customers can expect a couple of new things in the mail: two separate bills instead of the usual one and an extra charge of $9.95 a month.

Most of these customers were part of an AT&T offer called "Personal Network." The customers got both long-distance services, offered by AT&T, and wireless services, offered by the division of AT&T that recently spun off into a separate company called AT&T Wireless.

The charges all came on one monthly bill. To entice customers to take part, and save AT&T money by not having to send two bills, the company offered deals on calling cards and a personal 800 number, and it waived a monthly $9.95 long-distance fee.

But according to AT&T spokesman Mark Siegel, customers said that while they liked having the services bundled together, they didn't necessarily like getting just the one bill.

The Personal Network program also posed another problem. AT&T Wireless is now a separate company. To send just one bill, AT&T would have had to assume the billing role for the million customers getting long-distance and wireless services. The company chose not to do that, according to sources.

AT&T decided it would bill for long-distance and let the newly formed wireless company send its bill for the wireless subscription.

A spokesman for AT&T Wireless referred comment to AT&T.

The Personal Network program hasn't been marketed in about a year. The same services the program offers are now being sold piecemeal. Because Personal Network is no longer being marketed, the $9.95 fee will be reinstated on the long-distance bill, Siegel said.

The new billing structure should be in place by January.

"The reason for this is that while we have found that there is a great deal of interest in bundles--multiple services carried over the same facility. So far consumers have not demonstrated an overwhelming interest in getting those same services on the same bill," Siegel said.

There is at least one customer upset by the new billing structure, however.

Todd Heflin, a software engineer in Atlanta, Ga., has been a Personal Network customer for several years, but the additional $9.95 a month is causing him to abandon AT&T, he said.

"This is just stunning," he said. "This is going to cost me hundreds and hundreds of dollars."

Siegel said that's Heflin's prerogative.

"Customers can always seek another long-distance carrier," he said.